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Thursday, 26 September 1974
Page: 1445

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I desire to speak to the motion that the Senate take note of the report. I think that Senator McAuliffe and his Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control, are to be complimented for the frankness with which they have put the record straight about the activities of the Committee and about the history of the 2 Bills, that is the Bill relating to the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund Bill. I feel that when a Committee of the Senate which consists of Government senators and Opposition senators- Senator McAuliffe, a Government senator, is Chairman of the Committee- presents a report of this character it ought not go unnoticed by the Senate. I refer to the last words of Senator McAuliffe 's statement. He referred to the statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr. J. F. Cairns) as not being in accordance with the facts of the situation as well as being incorrect and misleading. The honourable senator points out that this reflects adversely on the Committee.

Let us look at what has happened with regard to these Bills because the Opposition's conduct has been very severely criticised. I think an examination of the record, which Senator McAuliffe 's statement now permits, at least allows a balance to be given. When the Bills were introduced in 1 973 the desire of the Opposition parties was to have an examination by a committee. That was the decision of the Senate. The Committee set to work under the chairmanship of Senator McAuliffe. It heard a considerable amount of evidence as to whether there could not be amendments to the Bills which had been introduced by Dr J. F. Cairns. I am assured that there was a great deal of co-operation and willingness to consider a better Bill not only by Government and Opposition honourable senators but also at the time by the Minister for Overseas Trade. Unfortunately, the report of the Committee had not been completed when the Senate rose last December. In the ordinary course, the Committee's report would have been examined and considered between the time at which the Senate rose on 1 3 December last year and the time at which it came back in February this year. It was the Government's action in proroguing the Parliament which brought all Committees to an end. Therefore, the Senate Select Committee was not able to continue its investigations during the summer break. The hearings of the Committee were brought to an end by the Government's own decision. When the Senate resumed it was necessary that the Committee be reconstituted. It was reconstituted, as Senator McAuliffe said, on 14 March. It ought not to be forgotten that the Committee was reconstituted with the support of both the Government and the Opposition. It was a decision in which we all concurred. The decision to refer to that Committee a further investigation of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill, again was made with the concurrence of the Government and the Opposition.

It is my recollection- I am willing to be corrected by the record- that the motion that the Senate Committee further consider the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill was moved by the Government itself. It is in those circumstances that Dr Cairns' statement and a lot of subsequent statements of other Government spokesmen have to be examined. The fact is that the Committee would have presented its report. If the report had been presented the whole of the ensuing debate on the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund Bills could have been examined in the light of a report presented by a Senate select committee. But there was no opportunity for that to be done. What happened?

One can only assume this action was taken by the Government to gain some political advantage: While the Bills were before a Senate committee the Government, in the House of Representatives, re-introduced the Bills. Why was that done? Why was it necessary for that course of conduct to be taken? Of course, the matter was not resolved at the time when the double dissolution occurred. We come to the situation in July of this year when the Government re-introduced the Bills into the House of Representatives. That is a fair enough course to take in order to get the Bills back on the notice paper. But the effort of the Opposition in this chamber to have the matter referred back to the Committee so that we could have the report of the Committee, was rejected by the Senate. Unfortunately, I think it was an even division in the Senate and therefore the Opposition's proposal, which was resisted by the Government, was defeated.

The Government had accepted some amendments to the Bills as a result of evidence which had been tendered to the Committee. In the other place the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Australian

Country Party (Mr Anthony) both indicated that generally they were in accord with what was contained in the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill subject- this was specifically stated- to a consideration of the report of the Senate Select Committee. The Government, in this place, declined to have the matter referred to the Senate Select Committee even though it had agreed to the Committee's being re-established. It refused to send back to the Committee this matter which was still under consideration. In those circumstances, for Dr Cairns to say, as Senator McAuliffe stated, that there is a remarkable record of delay by the Committee is completely unwarranted. I am glad that Senator McAuliffe, on behalf of the Committee has said so. The incorrectness of the suggestion that in some way the Opposition has been delaying matters is now, I think, absolutely and completely exposed by what has been said. I only hope that those who comment on affairs in this place and who usually derive their comment from what Ministers and Ministers' staffs have to tell them, will now have a look at what this Committee has said so that we can have a little more balance from commentators about the history of the Australian Industry Development Corporation legislation in this place.

When the matter was before the Senate last, in July, the decision upon which we had to vote was whether the Bills should be referred to the Committee to report by 1 October. That decision by the Senate not to refer the matters to the Committee has meant that we have not got the Bills in any form. It seems to me ridiculous that the Senate at this stage is not referring the Bills to the Committee. If the Government is not prepared to change its mind, the crucial factor is our Independent senator, Senator Steele Hall. I hope that he will read the report and recognise that there would be merit still in having the Committee examine the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bills with a view to getting something constructive and completing the work of the Committee. We want the Committee's report. I do not know whether any other senators desire to speak after what I have said. If they do, I will sit down and give them the opportunity. Otherwise, I would ask for leave to continue my remarks.

Senator Cotton - I wish to speak.

Senator GREENWOOD - I understand that Senator Cotton would like to speak.

The PRESIDENT - Senator DouglasMcClelland also would like to speak.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I intended to move that the debate be adjourned.

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